Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday his government was ready to resume negotiations with Syria but stuck to its refusal to cede access to the Lake of Tiberius.
"Israel is open to negotiations, (but) there is no change in Israel's position, under which we insist on Israeli sovereignty over the Sea of Galilee and on a strip around it, the size of which depends on peace arrangements between the two states," Barak said at his weekly cabinet meeting, according to a government release.
Earlier Sunday, one of Barak's close ministers, Haim Ramon, said negotiations with Damascus, stalled since February, could resume in the next few months.
"I think it's possible to restart -- maybe not in the coming weeks, but in the coming months -- negotiations with Syria, thanks to the more open policy which Syrian president-designate Bashar Assad could conduct," Ramon told military radio.
"The ball is in the Syrian camp; what's in play isn't only the territorial issue but also security arrangements and the process of normalization between the two countries," he said.
Syria has demanded that Israel leave all land it occupied in the 1967 war, including the Golan Heights.
Barak has agreed for Israel to leave the Golan, where 17,000 Israeli settlers live, but has refused to give the Syrians access to the Tiberius, Israel's major water source, leading to the collapse of talks with Syria in the United States only weeks after they resumed.
At the cabinet meeting, Barak and foreign minister, David Levy, rejected a suggestion from justice minister, Yossi Beilin, that negotiations over the lake "use as a base" a compromise proposal by Patrick Seale, a British journalist who was the late President Hafez Assad's biographer, public radio reported.
Seale has suggested that Syria gain sovereignty over the lake's northeast shore but Israelis would be able to move freely on the road round the lake in that area - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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